“The Pistil”

Ben Lerner

September 7, 2023 
The following is a poem from Ben Lerner's The Lights. Lerner is the author of seven previous books of poetry and prose, as well as several collaborations with visual artists. The recipient of fellowships from the Fulbright, Guggenheim, and MacArthur Foundations, Lerner has been a finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, among many other honors. He is a Distinguished Professor of English at Brooklyn College.

Now that nothing has been done
Before, you can speak of the stigma
style and ovary
Fourth whorl of the flower
You can run your tongue
Along the lips of the sleeping
No one has touched
Your hair, described the fall of it
Now you can smoke
Indoors, around your daughters
Windows open to spring
Nights that flare up in winter
Words like transparent
Shells attached to the elms
maples and ash
I hear the people
Because tonight is recycling
Picking through glass
As I write you, slow pour of metal
Into the mold, my speech direct
Because recycled
The prohibition against
Feeling broken like bread
Above the sill, an inferior mirage
Above their heads, minute gaps
Impulses pass through, blue
sparks rise in the dark
Fourth wall of the flower
Splits at maturity, releases
Sentiment, follicle fruit of it, soft
Space between bones of the skull
Where dreams are knitting
Delicate fallacies, now that bees
The coral and ice, white
Noses of bats, it’s time
To write the first poem in English
Each line the last, small
rain turning glass


From The Lights by Ben Lerner. Used with permission of the publisher, FSG. Copyright © 2023 by Ben Lerner.

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